In Review: Wonderland #44

The art is the weakest element to this issue, though there’s enough good story to keep fans satisfied.

The covers: You will go insane trying to track down on all seven covers to this issue. The A cover is by Gregbo Watson and Sanju Nivangune. Violet Liddle, Calie’s daughter, is getting attacked by different version of herself as the Mad Hatter. She’s being restrained by one Hatter on her back that has her legs around her normal self, while two others emerge from exploding mirrors. It’s a good image to highlight the madness of the book and the colors are really strong, with the skin of the characters popping out against the dark background and Cheshire Cat pinks. The B has a deadlier edge to it. Noah Salonga and Leonardo Paciarotti have Violet strapped to a revolving wooden wheel while an insane looking knife thrower grins at the reader before tossing his blade. More circus/fair than Wonderland, but still captures the threat of this story. The coloring is too dark to make this stand out against other books on the shelves. The C is by Paolo Pantalena and Ula Mos and it’s the image I’ve chosen to accompany this review. It’s an illustration of an absolutely gorgeous Violet wearing a tight fitting candy cane colored corset and black boots with a matching top hat under a circus tent. To take the heat off this image, a giant snake writhes comfortably around her. Pantalena and Mos continue to show that they’re the combination to beat on Zenescope covers. The first exclusive cover is the Comics PRO Bombshell Exclusive by Age Velez, limited to 250 copies. This features a blonde woman in a blue Alice outfit, striking a pose with her hands behind her head ala the traditional bombshell pose, while sitting on a checkerboard surface against a pink background. It’s cute, but seems lacking details; there’s just too much empty space. The Valentine’s Day Exclusive by Franchesco! is limited to 350 copies and it’s fantastic. It’s a bust shot of a very busty Violet wearing a black hat, long black gloves, and a black top hat, with diamonds on each article of apparel. She looks beautiful with riveting emerald eyes and she has a small red heart on a cheek. This is one to find! Overall grades: A A, B C, C A+, Bombshell Exclusive B-, and Valentine’s Day Exclusive A+

The story: A one armed red headed woman called the “Hatchet-Bearer”, is led into the center of the ring by the reptile man. She is eager to fight her unseen opponent. The reptile man addresses this mystery combatant, asking, “Can you hear it, child? Can you hear Wonderland’s call? Do not deny your true self, child.” He then allows the Hatcher-Bearer forward and she raises her weapon to kill the woman, who is Violet Liddle. The battle is quick and never in question, but the crowd cheers wildly at the bloody killing. Violet looks down upon the fallen women, shocked and saddened and what’s occurred, but the reptile man simply turns to the crowd and proclaims, “Welcome her, my children. Welcome Violet Liddle, the Mad Hatter of Wonderland!” Things only get worse for Violet when she refuses to bring these worshipers of Wonderland to the promised land. Erica J. Heflin makes this setting on Earth just as insane as that of Wonderland, with reptile man being an absolute terror; there’s a freakish event on Page 9 that illustrates this perfectly. Thankfully, Violet doesn’t have to endure this horror show alone, as two other protagonists arrive and give her an opportunity to get out. The final page wonderfully reminds readers that this is not the Lewis Carrol fantasy, as one character “needs this.” This was the most insane story I’ve read in this series’ history. Overall grade: A

The art: Giorgia Sposito obviously relishes in illustrating the reptile man, who dominates every panel he’s in and is an absolutely fantastic freak show; he’s great in the circular panel on Page 3 and is “the” monster of the book on Page 9. There is another key antagonist, who first appears on 10, but he can’t hold a flame to the green monstrosity. His final scene is graphic, as it should be, but his chest decorations come off as unintentional funny, not mad. Violet is the lead of this issue and she’s tops. All she has to do is shoot a look at a character and readers know exactly what’s going through her mind, such as on 7. The introduction of the other female lead is perfection, with her full reveal on 12 grotesque and cool. And should readers think that she’s weaker than Violet, the final page makes her the dominant character of this book, even though Sposito leaves much of face in darkness, which absolutely suits her and the mood at the conclusion. Though the characters look good overall, the layout of the panels is a bit hit and miss; often too much space is left empty and filled with setting. For example, on Page 4 there is too much space between the reader and the protagonist. The crowd does need to be established in this page, but it looked much closer to the combatants on the previous two pages – the heroine is too far from the reader. This also lessens the conclusion of the fight. Things improve after this, but the first panel on 12 and all of 13 has the characters too far from the reader. The composition of Page 21 is intended to accentuate the insanity of the moment, but comes off as disjointed and, again, with the focus misplaced. Fewer panels would have helped. I’m liking some of this book’s visuals, but feeling really let down just as often. Overall grade: C-

The colors: Coloring can create a maddening tone for the visuals, and Leonardo Paciarotti knows this. The combination of red and purple for the center ring of the big top gives the proceedings a sinister edge, with the bright greens of the reptile man highlighting his appearances. Violet’s shock of golden hair also brings the focus to her, as does her white skin, which is different from the crowd who are given a violet shade of insanity. The other female lead is in a honey colored top which also makes her stand out from the purple and red. Paciarotti knows how to manipulate readers on their voyage into madness. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, a whisper, yells, sounds, Cheshire speak, signage, and newspaper text are crafted by Christy Sawyer. The story doesn’t provide many opportunities for unique fonts as did the denizens of Wonderland, but Sawyer still gets to provide a variety of styles to make the text visually pleasing. I’m impressed with Cheshire’s speech, which instantly sets him apart from all other speakers. Overall grade: A

The final line: The art is the weakest element to this issue, though there’s enough good story to keep fans satisfied. I’m enjoying seeing the heroes out of Wonderland and back on Earth, trying to stop those individuals from that dimension from wrecking havoc. Overall grade: B-

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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